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Soulbound

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“SANS! WAKE UP, LAZYBONES!”

Sans blearily opens a socket to the sound of his brother's loud, rapid knocking on his bedroom door. Then he closes it again.

“five more minutes, paps,” he groans into his pillow.

“YOU SAID THAT FIVE MINUTES AGO,” Papyrus counters, having somehow heard him. Sans still doesn't know how he does that. “AND I HAVE TO LEAVE FOR WORK SOON. WHO WILL WAKE YOU THEN?” There's a pause in which Sans can hear his brother gasp. “I COULD CALL UNDYNE! I'M SURE SHE'D BE HAPPY TO—”

“nope!” Sans calls, immediately rolling out from under the sheets. That woke him up. “nope, i'm up, that's okay!”

“ARE YOU SURE?” He almost sounds disappointed. “I KNOW SHE'S BEEN LOOKING FOR SOMEONE TO TRAIN WITH, AND—”

“yep! nope! i'm... i'm good!” He really doesn't feel like dodging spears today.

“WELL... IF YOU'RE SURE.” Papyrus says dejectedly. Sans lets out a breath of relief.

“yeah. i've got a few things i need to take care of today anyway."



Papyrus is already gone by the time Sans is finally showered and dressed, having left a note on the kitchen counter next to a heaping plate of scrambled eggs and bacon, still warm. Sans' perpetual grin softens at that. His brother really is the coolest. He sits down by the window and watches cars go by as he eats.

It’s not long before he finishes his meal, however, and he stands with a sigh. As much as he’d like to take the day off, he really does have work to do. He checks the time. The kid should be out by now.

Leaving his plate in the sink, he glances out the window again. The weather's nice enough, he decides. Might as well take the bus. He slips on his favorite coat and steps outside.



It’s almost noon by the time his errand is over with, and Sans is enjoying the feeling of sunshine on his bones as he walks down the street.

It’s one he doesn’t get enough of, he thinks. Not that he doesn’t go out much—he’s just rarely relaxed enough to savor it.

One of the drawbacks of being a monster living on the fringes of Ebott’s human side is that he’s had to learn to watch his back whenever he leaves the house. Sure, most humans are indifferent to him. Maybe a few will send dirty looks his way as they pass him on the sidewalk. But there are some people out there who will, for whatever reason, go out of their way to try and give him a bad time.

But here, on a mostly-empty street, deep in the monster side of the city, Sans can let his guard down just enough to relish the warmth of the midday sun.

...Which is why he’s not expecting it when he rounds a corner a little too sharply and bounces straight off a human.

Sans lands painfully on the concrete. He sits there for a second, stunned, before his mind catches up to the sudden change in motion.

He just walked into a human.

He’s not sure what to expect here. Disgust? Anger? Violence, maybe? He tenses on instinct, ready for some kind of retaliation—verbal or otherwise.

So he’s again taken by surprise when he gets an apology, instead.

“Shit, sorry!”

He looks up to see a human man standing over him with genuine abashment in his expression.

“You alright?” the man asks, offering Sans a hand.

Sans just stares.

The human’s brow furrows. “I didn’t give you a concussion, did I?” His eyes scan over Sans worriedly. “God, you’re all bone, aren’t you? Are concussions a thing you can get? Did I crack anything?”

Sans looks vacantly up at him. Then the questions register. “no! no, i’m uh... i’m alright.” He cautiously takes the stranger’s hand, and he helps him to his feet.

Sans doesn’t remember human hands being so soft. But then, he can’t remember the last time he was offered one.

“You’re sure?” the human asks. “You were looking kind of dazed there, for a second.”

“yeah. just... surprised, i guess.”

“Sorry,” the human says again.

“don’t worry about it,” he replies distractedly, taking his first good look at his sudden companion.

He’s a good four or five inches taller than Sans, but definitely still on the short side, for a human male. There’s a worn-looking messenger bag over his shoulder, and he’s wearing a deep crimson dress shirt and dark gray pants. And he’s wearing them well , too; his entire outfit looks like it was tailor-made for him.

He’s got a lean frame, dark brown hair, light skin... Are his eyes gray, or just a very muted blue? It’s hard to tell in this lighting, but they definitely look gray.

Is that a common thing with humans? Gray eyes? He’s heard the phrase “stormy eyes” before, but he thought it was just an expression. He doesn’t think he’s seen anyone with that particular trait before, but then again, it’s possible he’s just never noticed—

“So..." Stormy starts, dragging Sans back to the present. “Come here often?”

Sans blinks at him. “uh..."

Stormy smiles amusedly. “I figure we should probably get to know each other a little better if we’re gonna keep holding hands like this,” he says, squeezing the hand Sans still has wrapped around his.

“oh!” Sans lets go. “heh. sorry.”

“That’s alright.” The human bends down to pick a heavy-looking book up off the sidewalk. A textbook? Introduction to Monster Culture. Huh.

He turns back to Sans, smile still in place—or maybe a little brighter?

“After knocking you down like that, giving you a hand is the least I can do.”

Sans’ sockets widen slightly.

Was that...?

He feels his grin sharpen, just a little. “hey, it’s no skin off my nose,” he says, brushing a thumb over his nasal cavity.

Stormy blinks at him before letting out a loud snort. He probably hadn’t been expecting him to catch the joke, let alone retaliate.

But then his eyes narrow, and... He looks suspiciously like he’s trying to think up a respo—

“As long as you don’t have any bones to pick with me.”

Holy shit.

Stormy grins at him proudly.

Sans just stares, dumbstruck. This is happening. He’s having a pun battle with a human stranger he ran into on the sidewalk, and it’s totally happening.

He shakes himself out of his awe after a moment. He has to; the human clearly thinks he’s won, and Sans can’t have that, can he?

“i thought the whole thing was pretty humerus, to patella the truth.”

Stormy bursts out laughing.

He’s got an uneven, breathless chuckle—the kind you only get from people whose full, unrestrained laughter makes them sound like they’re dying.

Sans lives for that kind of laugh.

So now he’s curious.

Maybe against his better judgment, Sans finds himself focusing on his gray-eyed friend as he chuckles. Not on his face, or his body; Sans goes beyond that, past the physical, until he can see the core of his being.

Sans looks at his SOUL.

And the first thing he sees is red.

This human’s SOUL is a stunning, burning red; a red so vibrant and pure that it defies any true description. It’s the red of a rose, the red of a sunset, the red of blood, of love and fury.

It’s the red of Determination, and it’s the most intense that Sans has ever seen in a SOUL.

...Well. Second most, anyway.

Barely visible beneath the waves of scarlet, he can see other colors swirling within—secondary traits. The most prominent is violet, for Insight, then blue, for Integrity, and orange, for Bravery.

The human’s stats roll through Sans’ mind:

LV 1

HP 38/38

AT 0(2) EXP: 0

DF 0(28) NEXT: 10

WEAPON: Scuffed Textbook

ARMOR: Gold Pendant

But that’s not all there is to this SOUL. There’s more. There’s always more. Sans can feel it whispering to him from under the surface—faint music, just barely audible through a sturdy door.

He’s seen hundreds of SOULs, heard each of their distant melodies calling to him, and until now, he’s never followed one. But this? Something about this human’s song is different. And for the first time in his life, he needs to know.

So before he knows what he’s doing, Sans goes deeper.

Beyond the colors and the numbers, he starts to see the pieces that make up the human before him.

Nothing specific at first; it starts off vague, seemingly random. A hint of intent here, a flash of emotion there... Scattered fragments of an image Sans can’t yet make out. But it’s not long before he begins to see patterns in the chaos, and the pieces reveal themselves faster and faster as he starts to put them together.

Sans is catching glimpses of him. Who he is, how he thinks, the feelings that drive him, all of it getting clearer and clearer and clearer and—

And—

Sans tears his eyes away.

Too far.

Holy hell, that was too far.

He blinks his sockets, clearing the image of blazing red from his vision as the Determined human reigns in his laughter, completely unaware of what just happened.

Sans really didn’t mean to do that.

“Okay, I think you win,” the human says once he’s got himself back under control.

Sans chances a confused glance over at him, trying to keep the shock off his face. “uh... huh?”

“I mean, I think I put up a good fight and all, but I just can’t compete with a one-two punch like that.”

Sans stares at him blankly.

The human’s smile fades a little. “...The pun war? That we just had?”

“oh. right.”

He studies Sans’ face for a second, his brows knit. “You sure you didn’t hit your head or something?”

“yeah,” Sans says, seeing an opportunity to make a recovery. “besides, my skull’s pretty thick.” He winks and raps his knuckles on the side of his head.

The hollow sound it makes earns Sans another snort. “And after I’ve already admitted defeat, too,” the human says in mock offense.

Sans grins up at him, relieved he bought the deflection. “don’t start battles you aren’t prepared to finish, bud.”

“Good advice. Wouldn’t want anything to get too out of hand. ” The grin he gives Sans with that is positively shit-eating.

It takes him a second, and he almost misses it, but when Sans catches the punchline he lets out a bout of genuine, completely surprised laughter.

“holy shit,” he says once he’s got himself back under control. “the full-circle pun. well played, kid.”

“I try my best,” Stormy tells him modestly.

...Huh.

Stormy.

Sans isn’t sure that name really works for this human. Yeah, he’s got gray eyes, but... Sans can’t help but feel like “gray” makes for a poor description.

“Red” is a much better fit.

Sans and Red stand in satisfied silence for a moment, enjoying the aftermath of their exchange.

It’s not long before it passes, though, and Sans sees Red’s expression fall a little.

The human sighs. “Alright, well. As amazing as this was, I should probably get going. There’s a bowl of instant noodles with my name on it waiting for me back home.”

Sans’ grin fades as he realizes that he might never see him again if he leaves now, and he really doesn’t want that.

That’s not something he would’ve expected to think about a human he’s known for literally five minutes, but...

...Red’s got a good SOUL.

“I’ll see you around.”

He gives Sans a smile and starts walking away.

“wait!” Sans says before he can stop himself. Red looks back at him, confused. “i, uh..."

Shit.

Now what does he do?

It’s true that Sans doesn’t want to let someone like him walk away, but... Can he really justify doing anything else?

Sans invaded his SOUL. Trait colors and stats are one thing, but he went further than that. Further than he’s ever gone into anyone. Not far enough to hear thoughts or see memories, but he still saw pieces of him that no stranger has any right to, and that’s not okay.

Maybe it would be better if Sans never sees him again.

...

“you wanna grab some lunch with me?” Sans blurts.

Red’s eyebrows shoot up.

“i know a place that makes the best burgers in town, ‘couple blocks that way,” he continues, pointing vaguely down the street.

“I’ve known you for all of five minutes after knocking you down on the sidewalk, and you’re asking me to lunch?”

Sans starts to sweat. He shrugs helplessly.

“I don’t even know your name, dude.”

“sans.”

Red blinks. “Sorry?”

“‘s my name. sans the skeleton.”

Red looks at him for a couple long, agonizing seconds.

“...i’m buying?”

“Alright, sure,” the human says casually.

“w-wait, really?”

Red shrugs. “Yeah, why not? Lunch with a pun-loving skeleton and the best burgers in town? Sounds like a sweet deal to me. Much better than my instant noodle plan.”

Sans relaxes, happy despite himself. “cool.”

He starts to walk, and Red falls into step beside him, stowing the textbook he was carrying in his bag as he goes. “So what did you say this place was called?”

“grillby’s. you’ll love it.”



Sans watches his human companion take in the wood-covered interior of the building.

“This is the coziest restaurant I’ve ever been in,” Red tells him.

“you could say the owner knows how to keep a warm atmosphere,” he replies.

Red gives him a look. “That felt like a pun I’m missing the context for.”

“don’t worry, it’ll come to ya. c’mon,” he says, leading the way further into the restaurant.

Sans and Red take seats at the bar. Red picks up a menu and glances over it briefly before putting it back down.

“know what you want already?” Sans asks.

“I was promised a great burger,” Red says. Then his smile turns challenging. “And I’ve gotta see if it lives up to the hype.”

Sans mirrors the human’s expression. “oh, so you’re a burger snob, then?”

“I prefer the term ‘connoisseur.’”

“uh-huh. well, far be it from me to question your refined tastes, but you’ve got it wrong, kid.”

“How’s that?”

“you weren’t promised ‘a great burger.’ you were promised the best burger,” he corrects him.

Red eyes him skeptically. “See, now ‘great’ I might have believed, but you’re telling me this place serves The Best burger? That’s kind of a tall order, isn’t it?”

“nah, it’s only about yea high,” Sans says without missing a beat, holding his hand a few inches off of the bartop.

Red closes his eyes and lets out a breath, bowing his head slightly in the perfect picture of defeat. The effect is ruined somewhat by the fact that he’s still smiling, though. “Okay, I walked into that one.”

“yup.”

Before Sans can tease him anymore, however, the door to the kitchen opens. Out of it walks a green-and-gold fire elemental wearing dark slacks and a black vest over a spotless white dress shirt. Just like her father.

“heya, fuku,” Sans calls, waving her over.

Red turns to look, and his eyes widen briefly. Then he closes them and lets out another sigh. “‘Warm atmosphere’? Seriously?” he says, turning back to Sans.

“It’s not the first time he’s used that one,” Fuku tells him, now behind the bar, “and knowing him, it won’t be the last.”

Sans just chuckles. He can see the amusement in Red’s eyes. “good to see you too, kiddo. how’s your dad?”

“You tell me,” she counters. “You see more of him than I do, these days.”

“what can i say? he lights up my life.”

“So what can I get for you two?” she asks, pointedly ignoring the pun and looking between him and Red.

“we’ll take a double order of the usual burg’,” he says, grinning a little wider when he hears Red’s half-suppressed snicker.

“Drinks?” she asks, good humor in her tone. She looks to Sans. “You want your usual, I take it?”

“it’s almost like you know me or something.”

“Uh-huh,” she drawls wryly. She turns to Red. “And for you?”

“Water’s fine,” he says.

Fuku nods. “Right. I’ll have that ready for you in a minute.” She leaves, disappearing back into the kitchen.

Sans and Red sit in silence for a moment.

“So..." Red starts.

“so..."

“So.”

“ok.”

“Oh, come on. You invited me to lunch after meeting me on the street, and I have to carry the conversation?” he complains teasingly.

“heh. fair enough,” Sans says. He takes a second to think.

As wrong as it may have been for him to have looked so far into the SOUL of a stranger, it did give him a pretty solid idea of who this guy is. Sans could probably make fair guesses at everything from Red’s worldviews to his sense of humor (though he supposes he already had a pretty good handle on the latter, given how he met him). So he’s got a basic understanding of him as a person.

But it’s far from a complete image. All the details are missing. Sure, he knows what Red’s like, but that’s all he knows.

And he’d really like to know more.

Maybe he should start with the basics, then.

“so what brings you to this part of town?” he finally asks.

“I live in the neighborhood,” Red tells him.

“huh.”

“What?”

“nothin’, i just... you don’t see many humans livin’ this far into the monster side.”

“I did notice that, yeah.”

“...and that doesn’t bother you.” It’s not a question; Sans knows the answer.

“Should it?”

He can’t help the way his smile turns a little bitter. “it does most humans.”

But Red just shrugs. “The rent’s cheap, the people are friendly... As far as I’m concerned, those humans can suck it.”

That’s about right.

“can’t say i disagree.”

Fuku returns with a couple glasses of water and a bottle of ketchup. She places the ketchup near Sans, and a cup in front of both him and Red. Red thanks her before she leaves again.

“been in the area long, then?” Sans asks.

“I moved here just before the start of the semester, so... Tail end of August?” Red says, sipping at his drink.

“you’ve only lived in this neighborhood a month?”

“I’ve only lived in this city a month,” he clarifies. “Or just over a month, anyway.”

Sans blinks at him. “...you got any family here?”

Red shakes his head. “Not on this side of the country.” He must see the question in Sans’ face, because he continues after a moment. “I came here to study at EUMS,” he explains.

The Ebott University of Magic and Science. “guess that explains the textbook,” Sans muses, nodding at his bag. “monster culture, was it?”

“Yep. Where better to learn about monsters and magic than from actual monsters?”

He hums contemplatively.

That makes a lot of sense. Ebott is the only monster-inhabited city on the planet, and as it stands, EUMS is the only university to employ monster professors. It’s been drawing human students and academics to the city from all over the world since the day it opened, more than half a decade ago.

So why does Sans get the feeling that something doesn’t quite add up?

He doesn’t think Red’s lying to him, but...

The way he’s talking makes it sound like he’s at least a few hundred miles from home. Maybe from anyone he knows, even. And he looks a few years past the age most humans start college; that might imply coming here wasn’t always a part of his plan.

And then there’s his SOUL.

Red SOULs are rare. They’re very rare. Because although every human is born with a colored SOUL, no one is born Determined. As far as Sans knows, SOULs can only turn red after a Shift; an event so significant to a person’s life that it changes them on some vital level, right down to the color of their SOUL.

Exactly the type of thing that would make a person pack up and leave their old life behind.

There’s a story here that Sans is missing.

“What about you?” Red asks, shaking him from his thoughts. “You live in the neighborhood?”

“nah. i’m here checking in on a friend.”

The human’s brow furrows. “I’m not keeping you, am I?”

“i was just leaving when i ran into you,” he says, waving off his concern. “nothin’ else to do today, either.”

Red glances up at the clock on the wall. “It’s twelve o'clock on a Monday, and you have nothing to do for the rest of the day?”

“yup,” he confirms proudly.

“God, that sounds amazing.”

“you say that like you didn’t just agree to go on a spontaneous lunch date with a random stranger, at twelve o'clock on a monday.”

“I mean..." Is he imagining the faint color in Red’s cheeks? “Technically, I should be writing a paper right now..."

“...but ya just couldn’t resist my rugged good looks,” Sans finishes solemnly.

Nope, Red’s definitely blushing now.

Perfect.

Time for the trump card.

Sans closes his sockets and shakes his head. “tsk... another hapless bystander fallen madly in love with me.”

Casually, he reaches into his pocket...

...And pulls out his trusty blue comb.

He looks at Red with half-lidded sockets. “but that’s just the price of being this handsome, i guess,” he says, running the comb’s plastic teeth over his bare skull in the most languid, luxurious motion he can manage.

The scraping sound it makes is clearly audible over the ambiance of the restaurant.

Red stares at him with wide eyes for a second, but then his expression starts to crack, and he breaks into full-on, gasping laughter.

“Wh— What the f-f- fuck!?” he chokes out between guffaws, his voice strangled and high-pitched. “ Wh-Why the h-hell do you have that?!”

He sounds like he’s dying.

Totally called it.

Sans beams at Red as he struggles to breathe, entirely too pleased with himself.

Fuku chooses this moment to come back with the food. She sets the plates down on the bar, glancing between his smug grin and Red’s violently-shaking shoulders amusedly. “Which was it this time, the comb or the ketchup?” she asks Sans.

Red stops himself just long enough to blink up at her with an utterly baffled expression, and then he’s laughing even harder than before, hunching over and holding his stomach. “Wha— K-k-k-KETCHUP?!”

Sans’ grin just widens further. “anyone ever tell you you’ve got great timing?” he asks Fuku.

The elemental chuckles at that. “Enjoy your food.”

“thanks, kiddo,” he calls after her as she walks off.

It takes a minute or two for Red to calm down, but Sans doesn’t mind in the slightest. There’s nothing better than basking in the aftermath of a good joke.

“Hoo, man. That... That happened,” Red says as he catches his breath. He takes a glance at Sans as he runs a hand through his hair, still smiling. “So... Do you just carry that thing everywhere you go, or..."

Sans shrugs.

“Pfft..." Red sputters, chuckling again. “Okay, fine. Keep your secrets.”

He turns his attention to the burger in front of him, studying it critically.

“Okay, I will admit that this does smell pretty good..."

“just try it. you’ll see.”

“If you insist.” Red picks it up off the plate.

“hey,” Sans says, interrupting him before he can take a bite. “you, uh, want some ketchup with that?” Sans grabs the bottle off the bar, offering it to his new human friend with a grin.

Red pauses, narrowing his eyes at it before looking up at Sans with the same expression. “This is a trap, isn’t it?”

Sans’ smile widens. “whaaaat? no... don’t be ridiculous.”

Red scowls at him. “What did she mean when she said ‘ketchup’, Sans?” he demands.

Sans just shakes the bottle at him. “c’mon, buddy. it’s just ketchup... what could i possibly do?”

Red doesn’t look convinced, but he does slowly reach for the bottle, never breaking eye contact in a motion that reminds Sans of the way a skittish animal might approach offered food.

Gingerly, Red takes it from his hand, and Sans has to try so hard to keep a straight face when the human then holds it up to inspect it, turning it this way and that in his hands.

Once it’s apparently passed that test to his satisfaction, he unscrews the cap, glancing at Sans suspiciously as he goes. Sans just smiles innocently back at him. He almost cracks when he notices that Red’s very clearly angling the bottle away from himself as he opens it. It’s a near thing, but Sans keeps it together.

Red visibly relaxes once the cap’s off, as if he’d expected the whole thing to explode the second he got it open.

He squints at it dubiously. “...This isn’t anything that’ll ruin my food, is it?”

Sans can’t help laughing at that. “jeez, kid, whadda ya take me for?”

“I’m just being safe, okay?!”

Sans holds up both hands in a placating gesture, still snickering.

Red narrows his eyes at him again, but he does finally tip the bottle over his plate, pouring a small amount of the condiment onto his fries.

Sans watches him intently as he picks one up and pops it into his mouth.

The human blinks, first down at his plate, then up at Sans. “It’s just ketchup?”

Sans breaks down laughing. It’s too good. “what did i tell ya?” he says through his chortling.

Red looks so lost. “But then why were you acting so—?! Was it just—?! What did she mean?!”

Sans just laughs harder.

He’s really gotta find a way to thank Fuku for giving Red that hint. Now all he needs to do is keep him in suspense.

“don’t worry, kid,” Sans says once he regains control of his voice. “you’ll find out.” He leans in close. “when you least expect it.”

Red glowers at him. “You’re gonna milk the shit outta this, aren’t you?”

“oh, definitely.”

Red sighs dramatically. “Great,” he says. “Now I’ve gotta find yet another new city to relocate to. Change my identity, dye my hair, start a new life... Oh well.” He turns his attention back to his food. “At least I got a free meal out of all this. Silver linings, you know?”

Sans just snorts good-naturedly. “you’ve only been in town a month, right?” he asks as he watches Red pick up the hamburger again.

“Uh-huh.” Red takes a bite.

Sans grins a little wider. “tried much local food, yet?”

Red starts to shake his head as he chews, but freezes halfway through the motion, something like shock overtaking his features. He looks back down at the burger with wide eyes as he swallows the bite.

“Holy shit,” he says, awe plain in his voice.

“what’s the verdict?”

“This is the best goddamn thing I’ve ever tasted.”

“did i tell you, or what?”

The human grunts unintelligibly around another bite, apparently preoccupied.

Sans just chuckles and shakes his head.



Red eventually slows down enough to speak again, and Sans spends the next hour getting to know him a little better. Red talks about his favorite classes, his ongoing job hunt, how strange it’s been, getting used to a new city...

(The fact that he mentions nothing about his life before moving to Ebott is definitely not lost on Sans, but he doesn’t call him on it.)

Sans in turn tells Red a few of the better stories from the odd jobs he does to keep busy, and, once Red figures out he’s got a brother, Sans can’t help rambling a little about how cool Papyrus is. Red doesn’t seem to mind.

Eventually, however, the human checks the time.

“I should probably get going,” he says halfheartedly. “I really wasn’t kidding about that paper.”

Sans’ grin starts to fall. “right..."

There’s a pause in which neither of them move, but after a second, Red sighs out a reluctant breath. “I guess I should ask for a check, then.”

“nah,” Sans says. “i got it.”

Red’s brow furrows slightly. “But—”

“hey, fuku,” Sans calls, waving past Red to where the elemental stands a ways down the bar. “go ahead and put the burgers on my tab,” he tells her as she walks over.

“Sure thing,” she replies. “You two finishing up here, then?”

“looks like it.”

He glances back at Red. He’s frowning at him.

“what? don’t give me that look,” Sans says. “it was part of the deal, remember? i’m buying.”

Red keeps it up a second longer before he relents. “Alright, fine,” he grumbles. “But I’m still covering the tip,” he adds adamantly, the look in his stormcloud eyes daring Sans to argue as he pulls out his wallet. Sans holds up a hand in surrender.

Red counts out a few bills, leaving a generous tip on the bar before turning to Fuku.

“And my compliments to the chef,” he tells her. “That was the best burger I’ve ever had, no contest.”

The elemental smiles at him. “I’ll pass it along.”

Sans and Red leave the restaurant, making the short walk back up the street in comfortable silence.

It’s only a few minutes before they reach the corner where they met. They both slow to a halt, knowing that this is where they part ways.

Neither moves to leave.

“Well, this was nice,” Red says after a moment. “Definitely the best experience I’ve had with a stranger I knocked down on the sidewalk.”

Sans grins at him. The statement was phrased as a joke, but he knows Red’s being sincere. “that happen often?”

Red shrugs. “Once or twice. But hey, with how this turned out, I might make it a habit. Could be a good way to meet people.”

Sans huffs out a chuckle. “ya know, red, i can’t see many people havin’ a problem with that.”

Red gives him an odd look. “...Did you just call me ‘Red’?”

He blinks. “i..."

That’s not actually his name.

“sorry. ’s just what i’ve been calling you in my head, i guess. never gave me your name.”

“Oh... Okay, but why ‘Red,’ specifically?” the human presses.

Sans pauses, his mind briefly tripping over the realization that there’s no way in hell he can tell him he invaded his SOUL within minutes of meeting him.

So he goes with the only other thing he can think of:

“your shirt.”

Red blinks at Sans before glancing down at himself.

“‘s a good color on you,” Sans continues. “felt like it fit.”

“Huh...” Red looks surprised, like that answer took him off guard. Enough so that Sans finds himself wondering what he’d been expecting.

The human doesn’t say anything else, and Sans studies his face in an attempt to figure out what’s got him lost in thought. “...i can call you somethin’ else, if you don’t like it,” he says after a moment. “or, uh, just throwing this out there, you could tell me your actual name. whatever works.”

Red seems to consider this for a moment before that smile of his makes a reappearance.

“You know what?" he says, looking back up at Sans. “I think I like ‘Red.’”

Sans furrows his brow, suddenly afraid that lunch hadn’t gone as well as he thought it did. “...yeah?”

“Yeah.” He must catch the worry in Sans’ expression; his smile fades after a second and he hurries to explain himself. “No, no, it’s not that I’d be uncomfortable giving you my name or anything, really, I just..."

The human trails off, crossing his arms and watching the pavement as he seems to search for words. Sans waits.

“...I’ve only been in town a month, right?” Red says eventually, his voice noticeably quieter than it was a moment ago. He waits for Sans to nod before continuing. “Well, I came to this city alone. I told you I don’t have any family nearby, but I also don’t have any friends here, either. And I’ve been so busy just trying to get my bearings that I haven’t had much of a chance to change that.” He glances up at him, a tiny smile playing on his lips. “Until today, that is. You see where I’m going with this?”

He has a hunch. “you don’t know anybody in ebott.”

“Yeah,” Red agrees. “But more importantly, nobody knows me.

There it is. “and you want a fresh start,” Sans concludes.

Red shrugs. “More or less. I came here with nothing but my savings and what I was able to fit into a few pieces of luggage. I have a new apartment, I’m going to a new school, and with any luck, I’ll have a new job soon, too. I’ve got a new life here. Why not start it with a new name? Might as well go all the way, right?”

Sans considers him for a second.

He’d be lying if he said there was never a point in his life where he wished he could do something similar. Where he wanted to leave everything behind and start over, someplace far away. But that was never an option for Sans, and even if it was, he knows he wouldn’t have it in him to actually do it.

As nice as that might be to dream about sometimes, there are people in his life he knows he could never let go of. People who would never let go of him, either.

But this human, with his stormcloud eyes and blazing SOUL...

Does he have anyone like that?

Sans isn’t sure which answer would be worse.

The thought brings an ache to his SOUL, but he doesn’t say anything. He knows Red wouldn’t want to hear it.

So instead he just nods. “can’t argue with that, i guess.”

Red studies him, his smile having disappeared again in the time it took Sans to answer. The human looks away after a moment, down at the curb. “Y’know, Sans... I’ll tell you, if you really wanna know. It’s not a big deal, I just thought... I don’t know. Maybe it was a dumb idea."

“...nah.”

Red blinks at him. “...No? You’re sure?”

Sans shrugs. “yup. and ‘s not a dumb idea. you’ve got a chance at a clean slate here, right? nothin’ wrong with wanting to take it. so.” He meets his eyes. "what can i call ya?"

The human seems to take a moment to process this before he says anything. “...I think being Red might be nice for a change,” he decides quietly.

Sans nods. “welp. then i guess it’s settled.” He lets his sockets close with an easy grin. “welcome to ebott, red.”

Red huffs out a laugh at the cheesy statement, but doesn’t comment.

Still, he doesn’t move to leave or say goodbye. Sans says nothing. He’s got nowhere to be.

A long moment passes before the silence is broken again.

“Thank you.”

Sans looks up to find Red offering him a smile.

Sans has gotten a lot of those out of him over the last couple of hours, but they weren’t quite the same. This one’s softer. A little crooked, maybe, but honest and warm.

He’s got a good smile, Sans thinks.

“Not just for the name thing. It’s been a long time since I’ve had this much fun.”

Sans smiles back as he shrugs his shoulders. “i don’t know, kid. kinda feel like i got the better end of the bargain. lunch with a pun-loving human and the best burgers in town?” He winks lazily. “‘s a pretty sweet deal, don’tcha think?”

The way Red’s eyes narrow playfully at him tells he made his point.

Sans just grins. “either way, i’ll be looking forward to the next time we bump into each other.”

Red gives him an odd look. “...Seriously?”

Sans furrows his brow, confused. “uh... yeah?”

The human stares at him for a moment before shaking his head. He reaches into his pocket and takes out his phone. Sans watches curiously as he messes with it, but it’s only a second before Red reverses his grip and holds it out to him.

There’s a new contact entry open.

“What, did you think after all that I was just gonna go home and hope I run into you again? Leaving things up to fate is nice and all, but... I usually like to take a more active approach.”

Sans blinks up at him for a second before his grin is back full force. He takes the phone and enters his number.

Red chuckles at the name Sans gave the contact when he takes it back, and then types something into the device.

Sans’ own phone vibrates in his pocket. He pulls it out.

(XXX)XXX-XXXX: Thanks for the meal, bonehead

Red smiles playfully when Sans looks back up at him, and then turns to walk away. “See you around, Sans the Skeleton,” he calls over his shoulder.

“see ya, kid,” Sans calls back.

Sans watches as his new human friend disappears around the corner.

He looks back down at his phone with a grin so wide it feels like it might crack his skull apart. He adds Red’s number to his contacts.

And he can’t seem to help the surge of happiness and satisfaction he feels as he enters the name.